Dilbert creator Scott Adams on the Apple experience

Scott Adams is pretty brilliant. I’m sure anybody familiar with Dilbert will agree. Here is his description of the iPhone.

Recently I bought something called an iPhone. It drops calls so often that I no longer use it for audio conversations. It’s too frustrating. And unlike my old BlackBerry days, I don’t send e-mail on the iPhone because the on-screen keyboard is, as far as I can tell, an elaborate practical joke. I am, however, willing to respond to incoming text messages a long as they are in the form of yes-no questions and my answer are in the affirmative. In those cases I can simply type “k,” the shorthand for OK, and I have trained my friends and family to accept L, J, O, or comma as meaning the same thing.

And on why you should invest in Apple as a result (from a story featuring his investment principle: buy shares in companies you hate, because you hate them because they’re good).

My point is that I hate Apple. I hate that I irrationally crave their products, I hate their emotional control over my entire family, I hate the time I waste trying to make iTunes work, I hate how they manipulate my desires, I hate their closed systems, I hate Steve Jobs’s black turtlenecks, and I hate that they call their store employees Geniuses which, as far as I can tell, is actually true. My point is that I wish I had bought stock in Apple five years ago when I first started hating them. But I hate them more every day, which is a positive sign for investing, so I’ll probably buy some shares.

The Gervais Principle

Office culture is best understood through the lens of popular culture. That’s why Office Space and Dilbert are so popular.

The Office is another one of those seminal “texts”* on office life.

A blogger named Venkatesh Rao has combed through the Office and diluted from it a new “principle” to supersede the Dilbert Principle when it comes to our understanding of office life.

He breaks office employees down into three categories – the sociopath, the clueless, and the loser.

Below is an extended quote from his first post. He followed it up with a second. Check them out.

The Gervais Principle is this:

Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.

The Gervais principle differs from the Peter Principle, which it superficially resembles. The Peter Principle states that all people are promoted to the level of their incompetence. It is based on the assumption that future promotions are based on past performance. The Peter Principle is wrong for the simple reason that executives aren’t that stupid, and because there isn’t that much room in an upward-narrowing pyramid. They know what it takes for a promotion candidate to perform at the “to” level. So if they are promoting people beyond their competence anyway, under conditions of opportunity scarcity, there must be a good reason.

Scott Adams, seeing a different flaw in the Peter Principle, proposed the Dilbert Principle: that companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to middle management to limit the damage they can do. This again is untrue. The Gervais principle predicts the exact opposite: that the most competent ones will be promoted to middle management. Michael Scott was a star salesman before he become a clueless middle manager. The least competent employees (but not all of them — only certain enlightened incompetents) will be promoted not to middle management, but fast-tracked through to senior management. To the sociopath level.

And in case you are wondering, the unenlightened under-performers get fired.

*Because thanks to my arts degree (or QUT equivalent) I know that everything is a “text”…

A mug’s game

Do you work in an office? Are you sick of going to get your daily caffeine fix from the dripulator and finding – or rather not finding – your mug. Your pride and joy – perhaps a Dilbert mug with an insightful commentary on office life… Usually it’s because a colleague has pinched it.

Well, with this bad boy the joke is on them. Or the contents of your mug will be if they’re not paying attention. And let’s face it, that’s probably why they pinched it to begin with…

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